During the last four years, Southern Wayne head track and field coach Ronnie McClary had one of the best seats in the house watching student-athletes Erykah Baldwin and Taylen West grow into affable, mature people.
McClary felt proud to recently watch Baldwin and West sign their national letters of intent to compete in track and field.
“Erykah is a great student,” McClary said. “She did a wonderful job in and out of the classroom. She leads by example, and to see her maturation process come full circle is great. She will be great at the next level.
“Taylen is a character. Twenty years from now people will still know who Taylen West aka. ‘Popeye’ is. He’s a true student-athlete. If he hadn’t gone to school for track, he could’ve gone for football. He’s a great kid.”
Baldwin — who also plays basketball — signed at Winston-Salem State University, while West, also a member of the football and basketball teams, will take his talents to Wilmington where he will run track at University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Baldwin, who plans on majoring in criminal justice and minoring in forensics, said she liked the culture at Winston-Salem and how the track team made her feel when she went on a visit, but it was spending time with her future teammates and coaches that sealed the deal for Baldwin.
“This is a moment I’ve been dreaming about for a while,” Baldwin said. “Winston-Salem is just the perfect fit for me from the campus to the students. Everything just seemed perfect.
“I spent the entire day with one coach, and she seemed very adamant about me signing at Winston-Salem.”
Baldwin was convinced to run track by her coaches. At first, Baldwin wasn’t sure how she felt about running track, but she quickly realized she had the potential to run at the next level.
Baldwin said during her high school career, she started to love track more and more every day.
“Once I came to practice, I realized I could be good at it, and over the years I’ve started to fall in love with it more and more each day,” she said.
Like Baldwin, West also liked the atmosphere at UNC in Wilmington when he visited and saw how the Seahawks made him feel at home.
“It’s an amazing feeling, and I’m just excited,” West said. “When I went on a visit, I felt that the atmosphere and the environment made it a good fit for me.”
West also said meeting his soon-to-be coaches and teammates made him feel like UNC Wilmington is where he belonged. He started his freshman year playing football and basketball, but soon the track bug bit him and West was off to the races.
“It’s so competitive, and it brings that inner animal out of you,” West said about running track. “I started off playing basketball and football but then I just focused on track, and I really started to enjoy it.”
West said he plans on majoring in computer science, and one day plans on breaking into game design or animation.
Both Baldwin and West said they are grateful to be surrounded by their teammates, family and coaches.
“They’re my second family, basically, and I couldn’t do anything without my mom,” West said.
“Southern Wayne has a very big family mentality, so it makes you excited because we’re making each other proud. Every time one person succeeds, it carries onto the next person,” Baldwin said.